A reminder from the law: underage drinking illegal
June 1, 2010
Seniors in Park City are set to graduate this week and the authorities are reminding parents that it is illegal for anyone younger than 21 years old to consume alcohol in Utah.
"Having friends who went to school at Park City High, I know there is a culture within the West Side of the county that when parents house the kids at their home and take away the keys, they are somewhat more tolerable of the kids drinking," Summit County Attorney David Brickey said in a telephone interview. "The idea that a parent can simply take a child to their home and thereafter buy them a bottle of wine and let them drink is just not appropriate."
Many teens will be tempted to drink this week and parents can help their kids make wise decisions.
"The consequences could be life long. You’ve got to think long and hard before you give any minor alcohol, particularly 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds," Brickey said. "They can make really dumb decisions that’ll last their lifetime and impact others."
Any adult who provides alcohol to a minor, even after the keys are taken away, is breaking the law, Brickey stressed.
"Some parents would certainly like to better control their children’s consumption from home than allowing them to take the car and go. But that is not allowed by law," he said. "If you’re under the age of 21, you are not supposed to be drinking alcohol, period."
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The consequences for parents who break the law could be extreme, according to Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds.
"I can promise you that if we come across parents that are supplying alcohol to their minor children, or any other minor for that matter, they will be arrested and aggressively prosecuted," Edmunds said. "There is a predominant attitude that I have witnessed over the years in Summit County. There are folks who think if they allow their minors to consume alcohol under their supervision that somehow that is better. I simply disagree with that notion."
Fines are also high for minors caught drinking, he explained.
"They’re very expensive, and they should be," Edmunds said. "We’re trying to prevent kids from getting involved with alcohol consumption in any way, shape or form."
Except during some religious observances, there is not a state in the nation where people under age 21 are allowed to consume alcohol.
"It’s against the law and mom and dad need to take that strong stance and set the example. That’s what we expect parents to do," Edmunds said. "Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States of America and it needs to be consumed properly and with a great deal of respect."
Students should find a place where they can celebrate sober during graduation night.
"Certainly a big part of graduation is celebrating that milestone in their lives," Edmunds said.
But situations turn deadly when drunken teens get behind the wheel, he added.
"They don’t understand consequences and they don’t understand the powerful nature of that drug, and we forget that at times," Edmunds said. "There are valid reasons why the government has had to go and restrict alcohol use."
Minors convicted of alcohol offenses in Utah have lost their driver licenses for up to five years, according to Brickey.
"Parents don’t realize just how much impact this could potentially have on their children’s ability to drive," he said. "If you are allowing them to drink at your house, you’re also agreeing to be their chauffeur for the next couple years. If you have an alcohol-offense conviction and you are a minor, you’re going to lose your driver license for at least a year and maybe more."
"If there is any way to have fun on graduation night that doesn’t involve alcohol, I would really encourage that activity," Brickey said.